In observance of World Food Day on October 16, 2021, the RANFÒSE project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is advocating for the adoption of adequate measures to improve access to a healthier and diversified micro-nutrient diet in Haiti. This is even more important as the COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil continue to exacerbate food insecurity and the humanitarian crisis in Haiti.
Food insecurity in Haiti is worsening
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti has suffered from low agricultural productivity, road insecurity, devaluation of its national currency, increase in food prices, and the overall global recession in the last year. As a result, household purchasing power fell considerably.
Moreover, the devastating summer earthquake and torrential rains caused by Hurricane Grace further weakened Haiti’s agricultural sector and destroyed vital food production systems throughout the country, worsening the food insecurity crisis.
According to the National Food Security Coordination, 4.3 million people or 44% of the general population suffer from food insecurity, of which 14% are severely affected (phase 4 of the IPC). Additionally, UNICEF estimates that if no intervention is made, the number of children under five suffering from severe acute malnutrition is likely to double this year to over 86,000. This stark situation is projected to worsen in 2022.
Furthermore, 49% of non-pregnant women of childbearing age and 66% of children between the age of six months and five years are anemic, due in part to micronutrient deficiencies. An additional 34.9% of the Haitian population is also at risk of zinc deficiency.
The consequences of food insecurity are severe, including hunger, listlessness, and exhaustion in the short term. In the medium and long term, psychological and physical illnesses take hold, including non-communicable diseases. Malnourished children, in particular, are prone to learning deficits, poor academic performance, and low school retention school rates. These consequences also have significant implications for Haiti’s health and education systems, and society as a whole.
Food fortification: a solution that can help fight food insecurity
The Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization of the United Nations advocate for food fortification as a strategy to fight food insecurity. Food fortification is the process of adding micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, to staple foods to increase their nutritional value.
In February 2017, the Haitian government passed a food fortification law that requires that wheat flour be fortified with iron, folic acid, zinc, and B vitamins. The law also requires that vegetable oil be fortified with vitamin A and salt be fortified with iodine. This law supports the national nutrition policy of the Ministry of Public Health and Population, which identifies food fortification as a key to preventing and fighting against malnutrition in Haiti.
In addition to having a high cost-benefit ratio, food fortification is a sustainable solution to improving the nutritional value of staple foods. It helps address the lack of access to foods rich in micronutrients, including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meat which can be expensive for low-income households.
World Food Day: let's get involved
Considering the harmful consequences of food insecurity, it is necessary to work together and act now to guarantee a better future for Haitian children. RANFÒSE recommends:
- Strengthening the legal framework for food fortification, in particular through the publication of implementing texts for the law on food fortification and quality control of fortified foods;
- A commitment from the private sector to the production and marketing of properly fortified foods;
- Availability of fortified foods in markets for Haitian consumers;
- The revival of agricultural production, restoration of livelihoods, and the protection of vulnerable groups including farmers, women, and children in the most affected areas;
- A diversified and balanced diet made up of fruits and vegetables, fresh and seasonal products respectful of our planet;
- Reducing food waste by improving the means of storage and preservation;
- The adoption of agricultural practices that respect the environment and biodiversity and use natural resources efficiently and sustainably.
This article was prepared by the RANFOSE team as part of the project’s communications and activities. The above version has been condensed and lightly edited. A French version has been disseminated in publications in Haiti here and here.